“Priority #1” • An excerpt from “You Don’t Have To”
Not the only priority, not forever, but for now, number one
Below is a chapter from the upcoming book, “You Don’t Have To.” Available now for pre-order here.
Not the only priority, not forever, but for now, number one
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”Stephen Covey
I’m in a hotel lobby pretty early on a Sunday morning. I woke up even earlier, did my meditation, and I know my wife will sleep for hours more.
Here are some things I could do right now:
- Stay in bed and sleep (for me, when I’m awake, I’m awake)
- Listen to something in my headphones
- Stare at the ceiling
- Read my book
- Get dressed and go for a walk in the city we’re in
I’m pretty sure yesterday was the beginning of the Final Four (college basketball tournament in the U.S.). I’d really like to watch that. In fact, as I type, I have just made a deal with myself that I can watch it after this chapter (and the one called “Hey, It Didn’t Work.”).
I think it was the film “Good Morning, Vietnam” where a young Vietnamese boy had the Mercedes medallion from the American guy’s car and said something like, “Mercedes Number One!”
It very well could have been another movie entirely and that something else was Number One but go with me here for a minute.
Speaking of distractions, as is the topic of this chapter, I could go right now and spend valuable, creative, early morning time trying to find that scene and get it just right but I can almost guarantee you I would lose my train of thought … in fact, I am losing it as I type these words so I’ll get back to it now.
I have this image of the Vietnamese boy holding up his index finger and very enthusiastically smiling and saying repeatedly to the guy, “Number One!”
This chapter right here is my Priority Number One this morning. My Priority Number Two is the chapter, “Hey, It Didn’t Work.”
If you know me a bit and know that, for example, I wrote consecutively for 2,808 days wishing missing a day (and wrote 31 books in the process), you might think that such frivolous things as a tiny hierarchy on a Sunday morning would be easy for me but I can guarantee you, it’s not.
I am laughing quietly to myself as I write this as I feel like the little boy who is eating his broccoli only because he knows he’ll get dessert and if he doesn’t eat his broccoli he won’t get dessert at all today.
The dilemma here is that I’m both the little boy and his mother at the same time! I have the broccoli (this chapter) and the dessert (watching the Final Four recap on YouTube) in my control.
Be The Mom
Do what you have to do but make this a priority.
Remember, we’re not saying it has to be Priority #1 for every single day for the rest of your life and you can never have dessert on any day if you don’t do it.
Be the mom. Be the one who knows how important the broccoli is and get it down, get it done. First.
And also be the child. With the power of that broccoli, your day will bounce ahead, rocket forward, and blossom outwards.
While in the woods last year, I somehow had this Amazonian tribal moment (no offense to the REAL Amazonia tribes) and came up with this mantra: TriTiTo (tree / tie / toe).
- • Trigger
- • Time
- • Together
I add this here if you’re struggling being both the kid and the mom and are looking for ways to make this chapter (this thing you’re trying to do, be it fasting, meditation, or creating) your number one priority.
Trigger Time Together came about from group projects that had a clear goal to be accomplished in a specified time frame.
So rather than saying, “OK, fast, meditate, and create every so often for the rest of your life alone.” (Ouch, even writing that sounds cruel!), instead saying something like:
“Let’s 10 of us do a fasting, meditating, and creating long weekend retreat starting Thursday and wrapping up Sunday afternoon.”
Even better would be to add a bit of a concrete, measurable goal to the Sunday afternoon. For example, if writing is your goal, to have written three chapters (one per day).
- • Trigger: set up the group, initiate inspiration
- • Time: a fixed schedule with a start time and a deadline (and stick to it)
- • Together: it’s easier, more powerful and just plain more fun to do this in a (small) group
Oops, I Did It Again
I can’t guarantee this will always happen but here I am, way down further in this chapter and I’m into it, loving it, feeling good. I’ve even almost forgotten about the basketball game.
Or rather, I haven’t forgotten about the basketball game but I know this is the order, the sequential order in which I will both finish and succeed this morning.
I hope I can convey the power of this here.
By making the writing (or the fasting or the meditating or the ________ whatever it is you want to get done) the priority for the morning or for the session, by starting, persevering, and finishing, we build muscle, we create a sense of accomplishment and, honest and truly, the rest of our day will go better than had we done it the other way around.
This Is Hard
You might think this is easy for me. I still want to watch the game. I will watch the game. I was struggling the first few paragraphs and wanted to give up, to make an excuse, to say to myself:
“Oh, I’m not in the mood right now and this chapter isn’t going to be that great anyway, I should just watch the game and write this chapter this afternoon. Yeah, that will be fine. I mean, right? It will, right? Hello? Anyone? Bueller?”
I won’t win an award for writing this chapter first this morning. As I look around the lobby, no one will know if I’m writing a chapter of a book or if I’m watching North Carolina versus Duke.
Only one person will know and only one person will care.
Well, maybe two.
Me and you.
Me because my day will be better thanks to doing this first.
You because I got this chapter done and you’re reading it and hopefully the power of the message will sink in for you.
An author in the “How to Write Your Easiest Book Ever” (which is going on right now and is yet another piece of motivation (TriTiTo) for me to write this chapter) said something like:
p“If the message of my book helps one single person, it’s a success. In fact, if that one single person is me, it’s a success. If it then goes on to help one more person (and then another), it’s all icing on the cake.”
No one will know if I finish this chapter. I look around the café here and no one knows what I’m doing or if I’m going to finish.
But I know.
I know if I’m done for the morning.
And with that, I’m done. Priority Number One has been accomplished and the day has barely begun.
I like mantras so here’s one we could say, quietly in our minds, or maybe whisper quietly in this hotel café lobby:
“Finishing my tiny priority #1 task this morning will give me confidence, boost my energy, and make my day better.”
We don’t need to share our accomplishments on social media or scream them from the rooftops (although you’re welcome to). The only person who needs to know you made a choice this morning, you prioritized and you got your task done, is you.
We are often are harshest critics.
Give yourself a small win early in the day and let it domino forward throughout your day.
- Possible: be only the child
- Impossible: be only the mom
- Repossible: be the child, be the mom, eat your broccoli first and cherish your dessert